Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2017!! Part 2

"Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?"

Ask most people, & I'm sure that they'll say that 2017 was a pretty crappy year filled with insanity of the worst kind. I won't deny that by any means, though there's always plenty of good to look back on, but isn't that what New Year's is for? Before I close my book on the year 2017 & open a brand new one for the year 2018, though, let me look back on the other "six" of my favorite posts of the year. That being said, however, I am making 2018 the "Year of Unfinished Business", so maybe I just can't help but always look back on what happened in the past... Even if it's not always the best, as indicated by the first entry of this Part.

The Death Crimson Retrospective That Destroys Your Soul! (October 31)
A "kusoge", or "crappy game", is a video game that is so terrible in just about every regard, yet still manages to find an audience because of that lack of quality; it's the "so bad it's good" of gaming. In Japan, the game considered the "Emperor" & "Master" of kusoge is Ecole Software's Death Crimson for the Sega Saturn, a 1996 light gun shooter made by a bunch of CAD developers who had only one other game credit to their names. That game's instant notoriety resulted in it getting not one but two successive games, one that tried to be a much larger, multi-genre experience & another that kept things simple by being an actual rail shooter that saw initial release in arcades. Last year was the 20th Anniversary of Death Crimson, but since I didn't have all three games at that time yet, I was unable to do a proper retrospective for this infamous series... But, considering the reputation Death Crimson has, it did feel much more appropriate to do it on the year the original game would be legally able to get drunk.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Land of Obscusion's Twelve Favorite Posts of 2017!! Part 1

Aside from the very first month of this blog's existence, I've made it a habit to always put something up on December 26, which internationally is known as Boxing Day. That being said, I was born & still currently reside in the United States, which doesn't celebrate Boxing Day in any way; the only reason why our calendars mention it is because of Canada, after all. Therefore, why in the world do I always take the time to have a post ready for Boxing Day? Honestly, even I can't give a definitive answer for that, outside of me having an odd fascination with it ever since I first saw it listed on a calendar as a child. Maybe it's just a natural habit to root for the underdog, but as long as Boxing Day is acknowledged on the calendars that I use in my everyday life, then I shall always be there to wish you all a Happy Boxing Day!

And, as I have done ever since 2012, allow me to reminisce about "twelve" of my favorite posts on this blog from this very year, split up across two lists of "six". This time around, though, let's go backwards & start off with the one that meant the most to me, personally.

Ring ni Kakero's Ruby Anniversary (All of January)
I don't hide my love & fandom for Ring ni Kakero/Put It All in the Ring, the first major work from Saint Seiya's Masami Kuruamda. I won't act like it's some unbeatable masterwork that has never been topped, but there's just a collective "something" about this work, either in its original manga form or the four seasons of TV anime made from 2004-2011, that really appeal to me in a simple, visceral fashion. I, rather hastily, reviewed the hell out of RnK pretty early on via this blog, so I don't really have the ability to continually write about this series, but every now & then I find an opportunity to do so. For this year, that occasion was due to the fact that the original manga turned 40 years old in 2017 (technically the end of 2016, due to Shonen Jump's issue numbering habit, but I won't split hairs here), but since Japan was going to be heavily focused on two major anniversaries, Saint Seiya's 30th (which was technically last year) & Shonen Jump's 50th (which is actually next year), I figured that RnK's 40th was pretty much going to be ignored, which saddened me.

In fact, on October 1, animator & mechanical designer Hiroyuki Taiga had to clarify on Twitter that in the last episode of Senki Zessho Symphogear AXZ, a special attack shown was in fact a reference to Ring ni Kakero's Kaiser Knuckle, because fans were naturally (& mistakenly) assuming that it was a Saint Seiya reference; Taiga even apologized for his "old man concept". Yes, someone actually bothered to pay homage to RnK during its 40th Anniversary, only to not just have most people not realize it, but actually apologized for even going through with it... What the hell.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Corpse Princess: Some Shikabane are Always Trying to Ice-Skate Uphill...

Three years ago, I volunteered to be a part of the Reverse Thieves' yearly Anime Secret Santa, where volunteers are given a fellow participant (or, as I put it, "victim") to recommend three different anime to watch, with the "victim" having to choose at least one to watch & review in time for Christmas Eve; obviously, this is all done under utmost secrecy until Christmas Day, when everyone is revealed. The end result was me watching & reviewing The Legend of Black Heaven, which I absolutely loved. I held off on returning to the project for two years, as I always hate having to actually recommend stuff to people, especially when it's for people I likely don't know. This year, however, I decided to give it another go, & so I received three anime to choose from. There was Angel Links, the spin-off of Outlaw Star, & Descendants of Darkness, which saw a re-release by Discotek back in 2015, but after consideration I decided to go with what was actually the first one in the list, and what better time than the Holiday Season to watch an anime about zombies, am I right?

Kuro's title splash here, but the only difference is the kanji in the lower right.

Shikabane Hime/Corpse Princess debuted in the pages of Monthly Shonen GanGan in 2005 & was the first serialized work from a new mangaka named Yoshiichi Akahito; there were also two one-shot stories that predated the serialization. The manga did very well during its run, lasting 23 volumes until it ended in 2014; Akahito has since only done one other series, Saisei no Phantasma, that actually ended this year. In late 2008, Corpse Princess was adapted into a TV anime that was co-animated by the relatively new studio Feel (Jinki: Extend, Da Capo) & the legendary Gainax, which had been riding off of the success of Gurren Lagann just a year prior. Though it ran straight into early 2009 for 26 episodes, it was technically split up into two seasons, Aka/Red & Kuro/Black. For simplicity's sake, and also since there was no hiatus between seasons, I'll be covering this anime here in its entirety. So was this a good recommendation by Davius from OtakuPuppy, or did this miss the mark with me in some way?

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Demo Disc Vol. 12: Quadrantid Quarrels

I have said before on the blog that I prefer to not have to rely a source like those bootleg anime DVDs one would find in any major city's Chinatown district, but the fact of the matter is that these products were a part of my early days as an anime fan. Admittedly, I was a bit of a bizarre fan, as I would buy legit products that saw North American release, while also watching fansubs as well as occasionally buying bootlegs whenever me & my friends went to Chinatown in New York City; my last trip there was before I started the blog, however. In the years since, I have thrown out most of those bootlegs, either because I finally bought legit releases or said bootlegs were simply ripped by others & distributed online, making owning those DVDs kind of pointless. That being said, I still own bootleg DVDs for three productions, and that's mainly because they've never been ripped online, and the chances of them being released officially are effectively nil. I actually utilized one back in 2012 for one of my Saiyuki reviews, so I figure I should finally utilize another one of them in a productive manner. Therefore, let's talk about children's toys that shoot marbles.

Because we all know who the REAL main character is...

Takara-Tomy's B-Daman line takes the old game of marbles ("biidama" in Japan) & mixes things up by having players shoot them out of launchers. It started up back in 1993 as a sort of spin-off of Hudson Soft's Bomberman franchise, the union of which would produce two anime series & last until 2000, but in 1995 a standalone line called Super B-Daman was launched, complete with a manga by Shun Imaga to help promote it. An anime adaptation of the manga would air throughout 1999 for 20 episodes, with it actually being the first digital production Studio Xebec ever did. Takara would introduce another new line in 2002 called Battle B-Daman, and a manga by Eiji Inuki would debut alongside it. The start of 2004 would see the debut of B-Legend! Battle B-Daman, an adaptation of Inuki's manga by Nippon Animation & Synergy SP that ran for the entire year, lasting 52 episodes. Only at this point did Takara finally decide to export the toy line internationally, & across both 2005 & 2006 the anime would air on television in areas like Canada, Italy, France, Latin America, & the United States; in fact, it would air in the US twice, first on ABC Family's Jetix block & then on Cartoon Network. In fact, I remember the English dub being surprisingly good & enjoyable, as it featured a lot of all-star talent, like Barbara Goodson, Dave Wittenberg, Mona Marshall, & even Steven Blum.

As for the original Japanese version, the first 26 episodes did in fact see "release" via Chinatown's bootleg DVDs, complete with English subs that are surprisingly good; the names are mangled, sure, but the translation is accurate, if a bit too literal at times. So let me investigate the first half of B-Legend! Battle B-Daman, if only to find out if the English dub was built on a solid foundation.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Manga DVD Sanctuary: Third Time's Not Quite the Charm...

Near the end of the first year of this blog's very existence (in the far off year of 2011...), I watched & reviewed two products released under the hyper-short-lived Manga DVD line. On October 3, 2003, a production company named Shadow Entertainment released three DVDs, with distribution by Sony Pictures Entertainment, that took three classic manga & turned them into what people nowadays would call a "motion comic". In other words, instead of actually creating full-on anime adaptations of these works, the panels from the manga would be shown on screen, alongside some minor visual effects, full voice acting, sound effects, & a musical score. Unfortunately, Shadow only ever produced three of these DVDs, and all those years ago I covered the Manga DVD versions of Kyoufu Shinbun & Ring ni Kakero. Now it is finally time for me cover the third of these products... This is Manga DVD Sanctuary.

Technically, it's done in 4:3 full-screen, but except for the credits
it's all shown letterboxed, so I'm cropping here.

Running from 1990-1995 in the pages of Shogakukan's Big Comic Spirits, Sanctuary was a political thriller written by Sho Fumimura (a.k.a. Yoshiyuki Okamura, but best known as Fist of the North Star's Buronson) & drawn by Ryoichi Ikegami (Crying Freeman, Mai, the Psychic Girl); in fact, this would be the first of many collaborations between these two mangaka. The manga ran for 12 volumes, & prompted both a Japanese live-action theatrical adaptation in 1995 & a 50-minute OVA in 1996, both of which actually saw English release by Viz Media (who also released the manga, translated by Matt Thorn). Unfortunately, no version sold amazingly in North America, so the manga has been out-of-print for decades, & neither the movie nor the OVA ever saw a DVD release (VHS only, people). Even in Japan, while both the manga & movie have seen re-releases, the OVA still remains without a DVD release. Therefore, the Manga DVD adaptation is actually the most recent version of this story, which makes it all the more interesting that it's the most obscure & forgotten. Looking back at my reviews, I was generally pleased with what Shadow Entertainment had done with the other two productions, so let's see if this third one follows in their tracks.

Friday, December 1, 2017

No Obscusion for Miss Blandish: Lucky Anniversary Number Slevin

Man, have I been doing this blog for seven years now? At this point, I sometimes start to wonder if what I'm doing is actually resulting in anything substantial, or if I'm just doing this because it's become a regular part of my current life. In fact, a couple of days ago, the author of The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers, John Sczepaniak, sent an update to the people who helped crowdfund his series of books featuring Japanese developer interviews; it got tweeted by others & made more public. In it, he laments how his work isn't being more celebrated than he feels it should be, calling the entire endeavor a "colossal waste".

Honestly, I kind of relate to that feeling to an extent, as this blog is somewhat similar in basic concept to what Sczepaniak has been doing (i.e. making more know the niche & obscure), but seeing his words makes me realize that I still do enjoy what I do here, and I've been doing this blog for longer than he has been making his books. I don't disparage those who have read my posts, I don't hate on people for not retweeting my new post tweets (which, in turn, limits how many people read them), and I don't feel bitter about starting this in the first place; granted, he got money to make his books, so maybe that's affecting him, too. Still, I understand Sczepaniak's frustration, so I'll make sure to finally buy his first two Volumes sometime this holiday season, and I say you should do so, too, if you're a fan of old-school gaming.

That being said, I can never tell when I'll decide to put an end to this blog & call it quits. After all, life moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. Therefore, I want to try to remove as many feelings of regret as possible, so for the first time ever I am dedicating an entire year to an overall concept. Yes, the year 2018 shall be "The Year of Unfinished Business"!! While I'll still be doing the usual things like Twelve Anime lists, Theory Musing, & the quarterly Demo Disc, every anime & manga review (plus some B-Sides) will either be related to something I had reviewed previously on the blog, or it will simply be something that I effectively said I'll cover (or at least wanted to cover) at some point in the future on this blog before... Because I had a massive problem with doing that. We'll be seeing the return of Kazuya Minekura's Saiyuki, Masami Kurumada's Saint Seiya, Mitsuteru Yokoyama's Mars, & the dread specter of Idea Factory anime, among other titles. In fact, to show how serious I am with this idea, up next will be me finally covering the last of the Manga DVD series, Sanctuary.

Still, I want to do something for this Anniversary post in particular, so here's a mini-review of something based on a Masami Kurumada manga (because of course I couldn't get through an entire year without reviewing a Kurumada-related product) that was released this year (because I haven't covered something truly "recent" in a while), and it's the perfect way to prepare for the Manga DVD.